As if it wasn’t bad enough driving home from a tooth extraction! Suddenly the highway was covered with ice from a hail storm sweeping westward ahead of us travelers. We were literally upon it quicker than brains react. I felt lucky that I hadn’t careened out of control and eased my speed down to 45mph while putting my Explorer into automatic four wheel drive. Once before, years ago, I had nearly spun out on the ice next to an eighteen wheeler. I was grateful that instincts kicked in even at the tender age of twenty-three. I took my foot off the gas, steered into the direction of the skid and did NOT apply brakes. My sister and her soon-to-be-born son and I are here today because I didn’t panic. That’s not bragging, it’s simply stating a fact.
So I have major respect for ice and snow. Everyone around me had slowed too which is rare because invariably someone wants to show fearlessness and speed ahead. I was feeling grounded with my four wheel drive old faithful ’96 SUV as we drove onward.
And then I saw this smaller Subaru SUV looking like it was executing a quick turn from the opposing lane (that was my first irrational thought). Then I realized she had lost control on the ice, but I’d already automatically been coasting to a stop. She slid right before me, and I braced for impact on the right front passenger side. Somehow, she missed me, but she hit the Chevy van just a little behind me in the right lane. The collision tore the front fender off the Subaru and spun her around. The lady in the van got her front driver’s fender smashed as she was spun around and faced the lanes at a ninety degree angle.
I called 911, mouth garbled from gauze as I got out and walked and talked while assessing first the Subaru lady and then the Chevy van gal. The road was still slushy with ice so I walked gingerly, then noticed an EMT guy taking control. He had just so happened to be a few vehicles back. I stood as if guarding the scene until vehicles began intruding the space between the Subaru and my car. Luckily, flares were put in place within minutes and traffic was diverted to the exit ramp right beside us so they could simply cross the road above and re-enter the freeway.
As help arrived I was asked to wait and give my statement to the police. As soon as I sat down, I could feel the pounding of a post-adrenalin migraine hitting me. I just wanted to go home! My extracted tooth site was starting to hurt now too. But then I looked at the tire tracks less than five yards ahead of me on the grass median. I realized I was very lucky. Had the Subaru lady come across at a different angle, I might have been hit hard.
I also saw that the lady in the Chevy van, having been checked by the emergency crew was holding a baby boy of about a year old on her lap, talking to him as he smiled. It could have been much worse for her too. And for the Subaru driver, who at one point earlier on I had reached in and rubbed her shoulder in comfort, maybe for my own comfort too.
We know life can turn on a dime. I had one close call years ago. This experience was another. I was so glad no one was hurt, and that the mother could hold her child, and we’d all get to go home that day. It really put my tooth extraction and life in perspective.